by Matthew Penman, social worker, McMaster Children’s Hospital
The average Canadian child racks up 7.5 hours of screen time every day. While there are benefits to certain types of screen time, it’s important for parents to make informed decisions about how and when their children use screens.
For typically developing children, the Canadian Paediatric Society recommends no screen time under age two and less than one hour per day between ages two and five. Even in school-aged children, screen time should be limited and should focus on activities that support health and learning. Young children who are exposed to too much screen time are at greater risk of:
- Becoming overweight
- Having difficulty sleeping
- Being less prepared for school
- Becoming inattentive, aggressive, and less able to self-soothe
Creating good screen habits early on prepares children to better manage their screen time independently as they get older.
Remember the four M’s
Minimize: Set limits on daily screen time, maintain ‘screen-free’ time for reading and family meals, turn off screens when not in use, and avoid screens for at least one hour before bed.
Mitigate risk: Be aware of the content your child is engaging with and be present and involved during their screen time.
Be Mindful: Take stock of your family’s screen habits and make sure they aren’t interfering with meaningful activities. Teach your children to question advertising messages and think about what they’re watching.
Model good behaviour: Minimize your own screen time when kids are present, especially during meals. Focus on conversation, interactive play and healthy activities.
Trouble managing screen time? Talk to your family doctor or call your local Contact agency. Contact Hamilton: (905) 570-8888.